A furniture innovation in the early twentieth century quickly became and still is a very popular item, the cedar chest. A great variety of trunks and chests had satisfied storage and transport needs for many decades. Some of these were the metal strapped trunks we have featured in our section about restoration, accessible by using this link. Additionally there was a long tradition of young women collecting and saving items they would bring with them into marriage. These items were stored in a "hope chest." In 1912, the Lane Furniture Company opened its doors producing solid cedar chests which were designed to satisfy both needs. The first chests retained the tradition of metal strapping with decorative straps of brass or copper. During the 1920s, Lane cedar chests became a very popular item and over the next three decades especially, were found in nearly everyone's home.
Time and household use take their toll and these popular items are finding their way into refinishers shops around the country to prepare them for continued use. Rarely viewed as a necessity by brides to be, these chests are still a useful storage item. The evolving styles that cedar chest designs followed also add desirable decorative statements to eclectic or retro room decors.
Fashions change and the look of cedar became outdated. Walnut replaced cedar as the preferred exterior wood, which was later replaced by geometrically arranged patterns of exotic straight grained woods. The moth repellant and aromatic benefits of cedar ensured that cedar would still line the inside of these chests. Examples of some of these later styles featuring walnut are illustrated on this page.
This late 1920s era cedar chest demonstrates the move to walnut for the exterior wood. The owner of this chest opted for an unusual effect: using gold to accent its features.
Lane was not the only company making cedar chests. After their initial successes, several other companies offered cedar lined chests to their customers. Roos Chests became fairly popular as well. This chest was probably made in the 1920s and exhibits the move to walnut and to a more highly decorative exterior, influenced by the popular deco style of the time
The paper labels and liner you see inside were all removed, along with the locks and hinges, while work was being done.
The bottom of any chest is useless. Roos made that space useful by creating a drawer, so you can get at the items there.
The decoration on the front of this cedar lined chest is faux grained. If we had not protected it while stripping, it would have been a featureless, virtually white blank. Boring. We protected it by sealing it with clear packaging tape while stripping. The decoration above was removed so it could be taped.
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Another Roos Chest. It is not too hard to understand why the beautiful walnut grain featured on the outside of this chest was so much in demand. It is beautiful and with the other design elements creates a very appealing decorative piece.
The two detail photos show this had seen better days!
The vibrant color and intense activity of the grain is nicely contained and framed by the decorative elements on both the lid and the front face. This is indeed a very well designed and attractive piece.
Here is another beautiful walnut chest. Unfortunately we took no photos of any stages prior to completion.
The next phase of design in cedar chests was the waterfall style. The rounded top front edge was the defining characteristic of this style. In addition, exotic hardwoods were arranged in fantastic geometric patterns. Here Orientalwood is featured. That even sounds exotic! Only an after photo for this chest too.